Like most Americans I was horrified last week at the news of the massacre in Connecticut.
It’s simply beyond reason. Our prayers and hearts go out to those who are facing this terrible grief.
Does anyone remember the terrible Hartford, Connecticut “circus” fire? In 1944, 169 people lost their lives in a fire at a Barnum and Bailey circus show. That was before my time. More of us remember the 9/11 terrorist attack and the Katrina disaster. But we seem to move on, don’t we?
At times of tragedy and mass loss of life, especially at a community or national level, it is common for folks to ask, “Where was God in all of this?” We want answers. We feel powerless. We want to put the blame somewhere. Surely someone should have seen this coming? Someone should have done something! Can we make more laws and regulations that will stop this? If there’s a God in heaven, surely He could have (should have) intervened?
These questions are common and some of them deserve serious thought. But sometimes the questions miss the mark. When we ask a faulty question, we usually end up with something less than the best answer.
As I consider the terrible school tragedy of last week, my mind drifts back 2,000 years. Surrounding the birth of Jesus was a terrible regional massacre of small boys. King Herod, a jealous and murderous ruler, gave the order to slaughter all the male children under two years old in the area around Bethlehem. This was a tragedy and crime of great dimension. It was rooted in the delusions of a maniac. A fact from this case that might initially be troublesome to our minds is this:
God knew that the entrance of His Son into the world in the flesh of a babe would result in this crazy reaction by Herod. He knew that these little children would die as an immediate result of the birth of Christ.
If we stop with that thought, we are tempted to be offended not only at Herod but at God. But we must not stop there. We must think more clearly, more deeply, more eternally. God in His wisdom sometimes allows things to happen that His power could prevent.
God knows things that we don’t know. And He knows that every person born into this world will die – and will die as a sinner. The little ones who died, died in innocence in God’s sight. But not so when they become adults (like most of my readers). The soul who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins, the Bible says. God sent His Son into the world for more important reasons than to simply give us 70-80 years of more or less pain-free living. He came to save us from our sins and open the way to eternal life.
Here’s the sobering reality that we can miss as we go through this day:
Around 200,000 people will die on our planet today…and again tomorrow…and the next day.
As much as we dislike this fact, we must realize that death is not something that any of us will escape. So the question of even more immediate and universal importance is:
Since death is a universal fact, has God done anything to address this terrible reality?
And if God has done something to address this reality, have I honestly considered it? This question frames the issue in a different light, doesn’t it? God sent His Son into this world to save us from our sins and the judgment that sin deserves. Yes, the birth of Christ brought a reaction from a wicked king who heinously slaughtered several dozen innocent babies. But sin kills each of us sooner or later and sin will condemn us before a holy God…unless Somone intervenes. And no policeman or policymaker in Washington is fit for this task. Only God has provided a way for us to escape the immediate and long-term consequences of sin.
This Christmas let us remember that Jesus was born into our world so that He could die in our place on the Cross. And through His death and resurrection all those who put their trust in Him will live even if they die.
This is something Santa Claus cannot do for you. President Obama can’t accomplish this. Gun control laws might slow the rate of murder by guns, but something is going to inevitably kill each of us.
This Christmas let’s remind one another about the real meaning for the baby in the manger. Jesus appeared on this planet so as to become the Lamb on the Cross – and the Resurrection and the Life! This is the best Christmas gift anyone could receive.